Teachers of Mysticism: Teresa of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Avila<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
By Ken Silva
 
This series on Contemplative/Centering Prayer of the new spirituality within new evangelicalism continues now with this look at "St." Teresa of Avila. The idea here is to expose the most prominent people associated with the contemplative spirituality of so-called "Christian" mysticism that has launched a full-scale invasion into our Lord's Church. Without a doubt one of the most appealed to sources concerning the pursuit of the alleged "Inner Light" discovered through mystic meditation is Teresa of Avila. Through this work you will come to see the context in which the heretical visions and teachings of this devout and troubled sixteenth century Roman Catholic nun actually occurred.
Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. [1]
 
The Religious Friends Of "St." Teresa
I began this series with a background on Richard Foster. We now begin to examine the mystic Teresa of Avila. You may recall that in his book Celebration of Discipline while Richard Foster is discussing "imagination" the Guru of Contemplation tells us:
 
We can descend with the mind into the heart most easily through the imagination… We must not despise this simpler, more humble route into God's presence… Jesus himself taught in this manner, making constant appeal to the imagination, and many of the devotional masters likewise encourage us in this way. St. Teresa of Avila says, "…as I could not make reflection with my understanding I contrived to picture Christ within me." Many of us can identify with her words, for we too have tried a merely cerebral approach and found it too abstract, too detached. [2]
 
And one of the people most responsible for laying the foundation for the kind of theological suicide outlined above is Teresa of Avila whom Richard Foster, himself a  member of the Quakers, promotes as an orthodox source for Christian doctrine. The respect that the Quakers themselves still have for Teresa becomes all the more evident as we consider the following from Quaker.org in an article entitled The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) as a Religious Community by Anne K. Riggs, who just happens to be a member of the "staff of the Ecumenical Secretariat of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops." Yet another confirmation of the ecumenical bent the Quakers still have toward the apostate Church of Rome. Riggs informs us that:
To speak of God primarily as Light, as Friends do, limits discursive articulation and lends itself to apophatic [silent] ways of thinking about and approaching God ¬ ways which emphasize the incomprehensibility of God to the human mind. Friends consider the infused prayer ascribed by Teresa of Avila to the Fourth Mansions of the Interior Castle to be a mysterious universal gift God offers to any one who will receive it. Teresa's description of the fountain filled directly from the source, God, is very close to Friends' expectations for prayer, both public and private, in which,… Friends "sit down in pure stillness and silence of all flesh, and wait in the light:" [3]
 

 
Let me highlight a couple of points here. In his book on spiritual disciplines The Sacred Way, which comes highly recommended by Richard Foster's friend Emergent Guru Brian McLaren, Emergent theologian Tony Jones tells us that "[a]pophatic meditation requires silence. Like the Jesus Prayer and Centering Prayer, the required self-emptying demands that the meditator finds a place of true quiet." [4] So now you can see that when Riggs tells us about "the infused prayer ascribed by Teresa of Avila" and that Quakers "sit down in pure stillness and silence" while they wait "in the light" (supposedly God), she is talking about alleged "Christian" meditation. This becomes even clearer as under the subheading "Silence Mysticism" Riggs tells us a bit more about "the Inner Light":
 
In silence [meditation] which is active, the Inner Light [God] begins to grow ¬ a tiny spark. For the flame to be kindled and to grow, subtle argument and the clamor of our emotions must be stilled. It is by an attention full of love that we enable the Inner Light to blaze and illuminate our dwelling and to make of our whole being a source from which this Light may shine out.
 
Words must be purified in a redemptive silence if they are to bear the message of peace. The right to speak is a call to the duty of listening. Speech has no meaning unless there are attentive minds and silent hearts. Silence is the welcoming acceptance of the other. The word born of silence must be received in silence.
 
This understanding of silence as an active arena of nurture and communication is very close to monastic understandings of silence. Basil Pennington speaks of silence as "enough." "In the end the monk learns that God speaks by silence and can be heard in silence." [5]
Can you see the Gnostic influence here? Only the "enlightened" Christians who understand and practice the spiritual discipline of Contemplative/Centering Prayer, the silence of meditation, will really learn to hear God speak. Why? Pennington says that "in the end" we have to learn that "God speaks by silence and can be heard in silence." This brings to light the fact that it is this subjective experience (meditation) which determines what God has allegedly "said," and thus we bring this new gnosis (knowledge) back to the Scriptures as we then use it to interpret them.
This is definitely not Christian theology. And please note the name M. Basil Pennington, we will be talking more about this man of whom Tony Jones says "is a leading authority on Centering Prayer" as this series moves along.


[1] 3 John 1:11.

[2] Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline (HarperCollins, 1998), p. 25, emphasis mine.

[3] www.quaker.org/quest/issue1-3.html, emphasis mine.

[4] Tony Jones, The Sacred Way (Zondervan, 2005), p. 82.

[5] www.quaker.org/quest/issue1-3.html, emphasis mine.
 
 

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